Die herskrywing van literêre romans na draaiboeke vir verfilming is ’n populêre keuse onder filmmakers. Afrikaanse films beleef tans ’n opbloei, tog is die aantal filmherskrywings van Afrikaanse romans min in vergelyking met die totale aantal films wat vervaardig word. Tradisioneel word die studie van filmverwerkings vanuit ’n literêre domein gedefinieer en die draaiboek en uiteindelike film staan sekondêr tot die literêre roman as bronteks. Die studie van die verwerking van ’n roman na ’n draaiboek is een waaroor tot dusver, in vergelyking met studies in letterkunde en filmkunde, min geteoretiseer is. Daar is min Afrikaanse bronne oor die praktyk van verwerkings beskikbaar. Die draaiboekskrywer, as verwerker of herskrywer van die roman vir die filmmedium, moet verskeie verwerkingsprobleme gedurende die proses oorkom, insluitend die probleem van toneelkeuse en die vlak van getrouheid aan die bronteks. Die verwerkingsproses is nie so eenvoudig as om bloot die verhaal oor te skryf nie. Die draaiboekskrywer dra die verantwoordelikheid om die roman in gedagte te hou terwyl hy die verhaal vir die filmmedium herskryf. Verskeie kritici en akademici is dit eens dat die draaiboek uiteindelik as ’n aparte teks van die roman moet staan, maar steeds die essensie van die romanverhaal moet behou omdat dit die teks is waarmee die filmkyker die film vergelyk. Dit is net een argument in die verwerkingsdiskoers en in die praktyk is die draaiboekskrywer (en/of regisseur) verantwoordelik vir die besluit hieroor. Die vraag na hoe die proses van die kies van tonele plaasvind, asook die vlak van getrouheid aan die oorspronklike teks tydens die verwerking van ’n roman na draaiboek, word in hierdie artikel krities ondersoek. Die onlangse 2010-verfilming van Jan van Tonder se Roepman (2004) dien prakties as voorbeeld van ’n verwerkte draaiboek wat getrou bly aan die essensie van die oorspronklike teks. De Jager en die mededraaiboekskrywers se draaiboek (2010) word in die artikel prakties gebruik as voorbeeld van ’n onlangse Afrikaanse filmverwerking, spesifiek met verwysing na die proses van toneelkeuse en die probleem van getrouheid aan die roman. Met hierdie artikel bied ons ’n oorsig oor die verwerkingsproses van roman na draaiboek met Roepman as voorbeeldteks. Ons trek geen parallelle met ander films of draaiboeke nie.
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The adaptation process with regard to scene selection with reference to the film Roepman
The adaptation of literary novels to screenplays is popular among film-makers. The production of Afrikaans films is undergoing a revival, but Afrikaans film adaptations are scarce relative to the total number of films being produced. Traditionally the study of film adaptation is defined from a literary domain, implying that the adapted screenplay and film retain a secondary value to that of the novel. The adaptation process of novel to film is one that has been seldom theorised in Afrikaans, particularly in comparison with literary studies and film studies. Only a few academics have written about Afrikaans film adaptations.
The scriptwriter, as adapter or rewriter of the novel for the film medium, must overcome several challenges concerning the adaption process, including that of scene selection and fidelity to the source text. One can’t simply rewrite the novel’s story for the film medium. The scriptwriter, however, has the responsibility of keeping the novel’s story in mind while rewriting or adapting it for the film medium. Several critics and academics agree that the adapted screenplay eventually has to exist separately from the novel, but must still contain the original story’s essence because it is the text with which the film viewer will compare the film. This is only one argument in the discourse of film adaptation and in practice the scriptwriter (and/or director) is responsible for the decision on the level of fidelity. This article asks how the process of scene selection and issues of fidelity are approached during the adaptation process from novel to script.
The recent 2010 film adaptation of Jan van Tonder’s 2004 novel Roepman (translated into English in 2006 as Stargazer) will serve as an example of an adapted screenplay that endeavours to remain true to the essence of the original text, but also acknowledges the film as a new medium and the film audience as a new audience. Issues of scene selection and fidelity as found in the adaptation process will be discussed in reference to the Roepman screenplay.
In adaptation studies novels are traditionally considered to be superior to the screenplay adaptation and by implication its film. According to Van Jaarsveld (2012:307), if film narrative is defined from a literary position, the film, based on its own unique characteristics, will always be placed secondary to the literary text on which it is based. We are of the opinion that the scriptwriter should consult film models and theory during the adaptation process, along with the traditional literary and adaptation theory. The scriptwriter must take into consideration that the screenplay text must succeed in a new medium – film – and film models provide crucial insights into this new medium. The scriptwriter must consider the novel, or any other source being adapted, only as a guide (Field 2005:258). The adapted screenplay must be seen as an original screenplay, based on the source text (Field 2005:258). The screenwriter, therefore, is free to create a new story, inspired by the source text’s story (Krevolin 2003:10).
Even though scene selection during the adaptation process and issues concerning fidelity are discussed separately in this article, they are in fact dependent on each other. The scriptwriter can’t determine which scenes from the original story he should keep and which he should regard as unimportant for the new text without giving thought to issues of fidelity and its criticism. Robert McKee (1998) provides a film model on how the scriptwriter should approach the process of scene selection. Even though McKee does not address film adaptation, his theory on the creation of scenes is applicable to the adaptation process because the scriptwriter adapting a novel is also busy with a creative process. Resources not found in traditional adaptation or literary theory, such as McKee (1998) and Field (2005), offer insight into the field of practical scriptwriting and should therefore not be neglected by the scriptwriter in the process of adapting a literary text. The scriptwriter as adapter or rewriter of the novel’s story should consult literary theories in order to fully grasp and interpret the story, but should also consult research from creative sources, such as theories on scriptwriting, as the adaptation process is a creative one. McKee’s theory on scene creation, and by implication scene selection, is therefore used in this article to look at how Roepman’s scenes were chosen and adapted for the screenplay.
Events in the novel gain new focus in the screenplay and certain story elements, including scenes and the importance of characters, differ in the two texts. Some of the novel’s plot lines and themes must also be altered, or left out completely, to fit the new text’s story. Piet de Jager (2012), Roepman’s producer and one of the scriptwriters, supports this idea by stating that in order for the screenplay’s story to work some scenes and characters from the novel had to be cut.
The scene selection process is vital during adaptation. Field (2005:162) argues that the scene is the single most important element in a screenplay, since it is where something specific happens. McKee (1998:33) explains that the scriptwriter must be aware of the structure of a scene, which he defines as a “selection of events from the characters’ life stories that is composed into a strategic sequence to arouse specific emotions and to express a specific view of life”. These events bring changes to a character’s life, which forms the building blocks of a scene. These story events create meaningful change “in the life situation of a character that is expressed and experienced in terms of a value” (McKee 1998:33). A scene should be broken down according to the positive or negative values it is made up of (expressed in positive and negative numeric values) in order to determine which scenes should be kept and which should be discarded. These story events must, however, consist of changes achieved through conflict for them to contribute to the screenplay’s story – which McKee calls a true event. What McKee is describing is change motivated by conflict which results in either a positive or a negative value. It is this story event driven by conflict that ultimately can be described as a scene. The scriptwriter can therefore determine if and how his chosen scenes build and flow in accordance with the bigger three-act structure of the story.
The scriptwriter must shift, exclude or add scenes to the screenplay in order to build on the story it is telling. The screenplay ultimately must take on a new shape and become only about itself (Field 2005:260). The question of fidelity to the source text must be asked early in the adaptation process. Some film critics feel that the scriptwriter does not have to be faithful to the source text and that it should serve only as a starting point or inspiration for the new story being told in the screenplay, but that the essence of the original story should be kept. De Jager (2012) does not agree with this notion and feels that the issue of fidelity is complex in the sense that the kind of novel should determine the level of fidelity: because Roepman can be read as a literary novel it should enjoy a more faithful film adaptation than a novel with less literary merit.
Ultimately the novel cannot merely be rewritten as a successful screenplay and filmed as such. The story needs to be adapted for the film medium, which, like the novel, has its own unique characteristics. The story written in the screenplay must be able to exist independently from the novel’s and read as a new story merely inspired by or based on the original – even if the new story strives to remain as faithful as possible. For the successful adaptation of said story the scriptwriter must find a way to select which scenes from the original should be included in the new story, as well as decide how faithful the new story should be to the original. The screenplay’s plot structure, primary theme, characterisation and playing running time should also be kept in mind when making decisions regarding scene selection and fidelity. The scriptwriter should realise early on that the original story probably cannot be told in its entirety in the new text.
Roepman is used in this article as a recent Afrikaans film adaptation which endeavours to stay as faithful to the novel as possible, but succeeds in telling a new story for a new audience in a new medium, while acknowledging the characteristics of film. Ultimately we find that due to the changes made to the story the Roepman screenplay exists independently from the novel, but can be studied in unison with the original.
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Gepubliseer: Augustus 2014
© Catharina Loader 2001